A number of players recently taken by the Patriots in the early rounds of the NFL draft are on New England’s roster bubble entering the summer.
First-round picks Sony Michel (2018) and N’Keal Harry (2019), second-round pick Joejuan Williams (2019) and third-round picks Chase Winovich (2019), Yodny Cajuste (2019), Anfernee Jennings (2020), Devin Asiasi (2020) and Dalton Keene (2020) could be fighting for their spots on the 53-man roster in training camp and the preseason.
Here’s who we see making the cut after this spring’s organized team activities and minicamp practices:
Mac Jones, Cam Newton
There’s a battle between Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham for the No. 3 QB spot, and ultimately, we chose to keep neither on the 53-man roster.
If veteran players are allowed back on practice squads this season, then perhaps Hoyer can stay on to run the scout team.
Stidham’s best shot at a roster spot is if he somehow, someway winds up as New England’s starter, and the chances of that are slim and would require injuries to or serious struggles from Jones and Newton.
Jones looked at least good enough in spring practices to be a backup. Newton is still the prospective starter. The Patriots could probably trade Stidham, who also was solid in OTAs and minicamp, to a backup-needy team.
RUNNING BACK (5)
Damien Harris, Sony Michel, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, James White
The Patriots have five running backs worthy of roster spots: the above players plus Brandon Bolden.
Our thought process here is perhaps the Patriots could cut Bolden for a day to get another player on injured reserve then re-sign him back for special-teams purposes.
Bolden was a difficult player to remove from the roster, but it would have been tougher to cut Michel or Taylor.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Nixon, Gunner Olszewski
There was a tough decision to make between keeping Harry, Nixon and Isaiah Zuber, and ultimately, we held onto Harry and Nixon.
Harry definitely could be cut or traded, but that’s still early to give up on a 2019 first-round pick and admit to a massive mistake. At the same time, he has only shown small spurts of potential.
Nixon brings a speed and big-play element. Zuber should be easy to get back on the practice squad, but he’s an intriguing player on gadget plays.
TIGHT END (4)
Devin Asiasi, Hunter Henry, Dalton Keene, Jonnu Smith
Notice fullback Jakob Johnson isn’t on the roster. With a base two-tight end set, the Patriots don’t need a full-time fullback. Keene can fill a special-teams role and use his versatility at fullback, tight end and H-back.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
David Andrews, Trent Brown, Justin Herron, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason, Michael Onwenu, William Sherman, Isaiah Wynn
We skimped by keeping just eight offensive linemen. There wasn’t a ninth player worthy of a roster spot, and players like Herron and Karras can fill multiple spots as backups.
DEFENSIVE LINE (5)
Henry Anderson, Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise
It wasn’t easy to leave off players like Montravius Adams and Akeem Spence who were inserted into big roles during minicamp. We suspect Barmore can fill those positions in training camp and the preseason. If he can’t, maybe the Patriots find a way to keep Adams or Spence on the roster.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, Dont’a Hightower, Anfernee Jennings, Matt Judon, Ronnie Perkins, Josh Uche, Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich
It’s possible a player like Jennings or Winovich is moved because of the depth at linebacker. Special-teamer Ra’Shod Berry and linebackers Terez Hall and Raekwon McMillan are worthy of roster spots.
Ultimately, we can’t see the Patriots giving up on two recent third-round picks this quickly. Jennings can play inside or outside linebacker, and Winovich was the Patriots’ best pass rusher last season, albeit in a sometimes limited role.
Justin Bethel, Myles Bryant, Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills
Mike Jackson Sr. showed flashes over the spring. If he can continue to impress, he could push someone like Bryant or Joejuan Williams off the team. We just haven’t seen quite enough yet.
Cody Davis, Kyle Dugger, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Joejuan Williams
Williams is another recent high draft pick who could be moved. He hasn’t quite fit in at cornerback or safety, but we could see New England giving him one more shot as a backup in both spots.
We didn’t get a great look at rookie safety Joshuah Bledsoe over the spring since his arm was in a cast. If he stands out in the summer, then Bryant or Williams could be dropped.
SPECIAL TEAMS (4)
Jake Bailey, Joe Carona, Nick Folk, Matthew Slater
Folk is completing with rookie Quinn Nordin and Robert Aguayo. Nordin showed a big leg in the spring but might be best suited for a developmental role on the practice squad. Folk will likely continue to see competition this summer.